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April 8, 2011

Roundtable: The trendy schools

MORE ROUNDTABLES: April 1 | March 25 | March 11 | March 5 | Feb. 25 | Feb. 18 | Feb. 6 | Feb. 1

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

Is there a new, trendy school you've been hearing prospects talk about often at camps this spring?

Barry Every: Having only been in the West so far during the camp season it seems that California is definitely getting in the ears of recruits. Arizona State seems to be fairly aggressive especially in Southern California. And even though TCU is still one year away from being in a BCS conference, it has proven it can beat out current BCS schools for top flight players.

Mike Farrell: Honest answer is no. I've been to a ton of camps already this winter and spring and the same schools keep cropping up. The closest I could say would be Clemson because the on-field efforts in 2010 were well below the recruiting efforts in the class of 2011, and that momentum continues for 2012. But Clemson has always recruited well and it isn't new or trendy. Beyond that, the same schools, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, continue to come up as leaders for top players. The strong get stronger, that's how it works.

Adam Gorney: I don't know if it's a trendy school with recruits or if Arizona State will be able to continue this success on the recruiting trail, but the Sun Devils have done an outstanding job so far in Southern California - thanks in large part to their success at one high school. Four Long Beach (Calif.) Poly players, including three wide receivers in Richard Smith, Josiah Blandin and Randall Goforth have committed to Arizona State this week. The fifth commit in the class is Upland (Calif.) wide receiver Kenny Lawler, who just picked up offers from Nebraska and Washington. It's a long way until National Signing Day but coach Dennis Erickson and his staff have a significant jump on the 2012 class in California.

Chris Nee: A lot of recruits are interested in seeing what Miami looks like under coach Al Golden and his staff. That staff has taken a different approach with its recruiting so far, as it needs to evaluate a lot of targets before extending a plethora of offers. The staff has worked hard to get a lot of kids on campus for junior days and/or practices, but also wants them to camp there. Prospects want to see what the 'Canes look like under this regime and if they return to the level of past success.

Keith Niebuhr: I'll go with Vanderbilt. Yes, Vanderbilt. Under first-year coach James Franklin, the Commodores have done an excellent job promoting the program. Recruits have taken notice. Many, in fact, have stopped by Nashville in 2011 to check things out. Franklin and Co., are selling the fact Vanderbilt can offer a kid a chance to play in the SEC and great academics. The prospects seem to be listening - even some of the pretty big names out there. Nibbles, however, are one thing. It remains to be seen if any big fish get hooked.

Brian Perroni: Here in Texas, TCU really started to make some headway with the class of 2011, finishing with its highest finish ever on National Signing Day. However, with their Rose Bowl win and upcoming move to the Big East, a lot of players are talking about the Horned Frogs. Dominique Wheeler, likely an overall Top 10 player in the state, visited Texas, Texas A&M and TCU, picking up offers from all three programs, and had TCU on top of his list after all three visits. That would have been completely unheard of two years ago.

Who is a prospect you'll be anxious to watch in person at a camp or combine you will attend over the next two weeks?

Barry Every: If Torshiro Davis, a DE/OLB, shows up to Dallas/Ft Worth Nike Training Camp this weekend it will be the first time anyone from Rivals has seen him. I am also looking forward to seeing Texas Tech commit Clayton Nicholas because on film he looks like one of the better PQBs in his area of the country.

Mike Farrell: I want to see Alex Carter from Virginia because I love his film and I think he could be No. 3 in Virginia behind Joel Caleb and Eli Harold. He could play offense or defense in college and is outstanding on film at both. He is already committed to Stanford and is a high academic prospect as well, which impressed me. I can't wait to see him April 17 at the Rivals/VTO camp in Virginia.

Adam Gorney: This is a perfect time for a shameless plug. I'll be in Las Vegas this weekend covering the Fullcourt Press Easter Class AAU basketball event but April 17 is the Rivals.com Five-Star Academy at Corona (Calif.) Centennial and all the top players in the 2012 and 2013 classes are welcome to attend. One player I haven't seen yet in person in the 2012 recruiting class is Orange (Calif.) Lutheran tight end Christo Kourtzidis. I hope he shows up to compare him with Taylor McNamara and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, two of the top tight ends on the West Coast. Kourtzidis might be in that conversation as well.

Chris Nee: I really want to see Jessamen Dunker in action, in-person. The Florida commitment has great video and is well put together, but so far has been absent from the camp circuit. He was scheduled to participate in Miami Nike a couple weeks ago but a minor injury suffered while playing basketball prevented him from getting on the field. I am hoping he may opt to attend the Tallahassee Nike Camp on April 17.

Keith Niebuhr: Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek receiver JaQuay Williams, who will attend Saturday's Rivals.com/VTO Elite 100 in Marietta, Ga. Williams' film is impressive. So are his measurables. But many of the Peach State's top receivers haven't panned out in recent years at the next level. Will Williams? I can't wait to get my first up-close look.

Brian Perroni: I am really looking forward to seeing Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints quarterback TJ Millweard at this weekend's Elite 11 event. He plays at a small private school and seemingly came out nowhere to pick up an offer from, and subsequently commit to, Virginia Tech. I really like him on film and want to see how he fares against some of the other top quarterbacks in the region.

What position faces more pressure than any other position at these spring camps and combines?

Barry Every: The quarterback position always draws the largest crowd. And sometimes they don't always get as many reps as other positions. You throw one or two bad balls and people just stop watching.

Mike Farrell: I'd say the offensive linemen because the OL-DL one-on-ones are not a true representative of what an offensive lineman does. You see guys dip inside so much or go so wide against these O-linemen. If they did that in a game, they would either run into a ton of traffic in the middle or be way out of the play having looped too far outside the quarterback. The advantage is clear for the defensive linemen in these drills, which is why it's more impressive to find a standout offensive lineman at camps than a defensive lineman.

Adam Gorney: I definitely think quarterback. Their mechanics are closely analyzed, every dropped pass or overthrown ball is seen in full view and it's incredibly difficult on those guys because each receiver has his own idiosyncrasies that can throw quarterbacks off. There are certain aspects of a quarterback's game I watch at camps and their attendance is definitely important but leadership, management and seeing those players in games is much more important to me when doing evaluations.

Chris Nee: I think quarterbacks face a great deal of pressure. Some are taken out of the comfort zone of what they do in their high school offense. They all have to work quickly to get on the same page with their wide receivers and backs, especially in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 portions of camps/combines. It isn't an easy task to handle in a one-day setting.

Keith Niebuhr: I'll go with quarterback. No matter where these guys go, all eyes are on them. Everything with a quarterback is closely scrutinized. His height. His weight. His footwork. His throwing motion. Everything. The guy with the football in his hands usually is the one people are watching.

Brian Perroni: Quarterback would be an easy answer but I'll go with defensive backs. Corners seem to be the fastest risers and fallers after each camp. If a prospect shows up and doesn't have as great of coverage skills as people expect or if he simply has a bad day, it hurts his stock quite a bit. However, prospects that have shown an excellent ability to play in coverage at past events have seen big jumps in their stock.



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